Read about the Plague? Now? Yes.

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks is a brilliant novel, at first so heart-wrenching and vivid in its account of a 17th-century bubonic-plague village in England, that it is tempting to close it and return …

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Lab Girl: a triumph

One of the best books I’ve read in years: Lab Girl by Hope Jahren. Jahren is a geochemist, geobiologist, and a brilliant writer. This autobiography weaves the life story of trees (among other green things) …

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Words have weight.

When I first worked for newspapers and the Associated Press in New England in the 1970s, there was an interlude when accepted style was: “Ms. Smith (who prefers that designation)…” I’ve since told many disbelieving …

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What I know about Swedish people.

It took months of isolation to do it, but I realized today that I actually miss wandering around IKEA, that behemoth store full of things you did not know you needed until you saw them. …

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Making art.

The Equivalents: A Story of Art, Female Friendship, and Liberation in the 1960s, by Maggie Doherty (Knopf, 2020) is a deeply researched and well-written book about poets Anne Sexton and Maxine Kumin, painter Barbara Swan, …

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Tough, smart, funny…and she loves horses, doesn’t she?

Julie Blacklow’s memoir, Fearless: Diary of a Badass Reporter will delight those who want to live vicariously – smack in the middle of the life of a strong writer and committed journalist who faced down …

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Sober and sheltered.

The closest thing to this pandemic weirdness I’ve experienced is my early sobriety. More than 30 years ago when I decided to step away from alcohol and drugs, I didn’t think about my abstinence as …

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Poll dancing: it’s clumsy

My faith in polls has never recovered from the Hillary-has-the-election-in-the-bag era, even though I tell myself that the Russians surely had plenty to do with that electoral debacle. But a Monmouth University poll described in …

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John Prine, equal parts humor and sadness.

John Prine is dead, leaving a legacy of music like none other. Rest in Peace, dear bard. Some of his best work, all in one place, thanks to Rolling Stone magazine:

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Finally, worrying is in style.

All my life I’ve been told that I worry too much. I don’t want to gloat, but it seems clear that my lifelong behavior, in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic has been proven to …

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Damning with fulsome praise.

It may be harsh to blame the victim, but it must be said: The word “fulsome” has only itself to blame for being misunderstood. It looks and sounds as if it means large, lavish, and …

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How do I love thee? Let me count the bivalves.

Valentine’s Day may be contrived, driven by retail sales of sub-par chocolate and guilt, but there is no denying that it brings out a kind of creativity not seen at other times of the year. …

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Let us honor our words.

In his novel All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy whips up language like a wizard, and creates words so perfect that they should be engraved on a big pink-granite wall in a park devoted to …

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It’s not stand-up comedy, it’s a commercial.

The Boston accent makes a lot more sense once you visit Ireland. The Irish brought it, we reconfigured it slightly. Been using it evah since. Check out this Superbowl commercial that relies on the sound …

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Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy is even greater than we remember…

My Opinion piece, below, ran in the New Hampshire Sunday News, New Hampshire’s largest newspaper, on January 19, 2020. This paper has a long history of conservative editorials — there was a time when they …

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Money talks.

There’s wisdom in the thesis explored in this New York Times article, “I’ll Share My Salary Information, if You Share Yours,” by Jessica Bennett (1/9/2020), which in a nutshell says that the more women talk …

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Race and Little Women

Louisa May Alcott would be fascinated to hear and read the discussions about diversity and literature-turned-into-films. Alcott, the author of Little Women, was way, way ahead of her time, and she pushed hard against the …

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Now, what was I going to do?

Is there anything more gratifying than a clearly written article that debunks some long-held and negative belief? Especially one related to the decline of this quirky vessel we inhabit during our worldly expedition? One such …

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The Saint of Central Square

Robert Kinerk is a fine writer and one who has covered genres from hard news to very well-regarded children’s literature, rhymes to headlines, stage plays to lyrics, and everything in between. The gifted Cambridge, Mass., …

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Phillipa Gregory’s “Tidelands” is brilliant.

Phillipa Gregory long ago established herself as a writer of excellent historical fiction. In her care, the Plantagenets and the Tudors came alive to a global readership. Even the heavy breathing of the various TV …

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Bachelors.

I have yet to travel anywhere in the world where people drop paired things together. It is always one sock, one glove, one mitten, one shoe, one sofa pillow in the middle of the motorway. …

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That word is in there. Somewhere.

That maddening sense of knowing a word but being unable to seize it, slip it into a sentence, and send it out into conversation has a suitably hard-to-remember term: Lethologica. This condition gets its name …

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Fentanyl and Cornbread

She’d thoughtfully put my glasses back on for me, so when I blinked out of the haze after the procedure, I could see the smiling nurse quite clearly. “All done. Go get yourself that cornbread …

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The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. KingEdition read: Picador, 1994 You don’t need to be a fan of Sherlock Holmes fan to get all the inside-baseball bits of this well-written picaresque novel. It will, however, …

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Sargent’s Women: Four Lives Behind the Canvas by Donna M. Lucey

Sargent’s Women: Four Lives Behind the Canvas by Donna M. LuceyEdition read: Kindle, 2017 Impressive research into four women behind portraits by John Singer Sargent. The gossipy tone and contemporary language is often jarring, but …

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‘A’ is for Alibi: A Kinsey Millhone Mystery by Sue Grafton

“A” is for Alibi: A Kinsey Millhone Mystery by Sue Grafton Edition read: Kindle, from Holt Paperbacks, 2010 The first in the alphabetical voyage by Grafton.  A straight-shooting, minimalist heroine who solves a crime with hard …

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Hot Metal Type

I’m barreling down Interstate 5 with Seattle behind me and Portland ahead, when it dawns on me: I’m a journeyman. I’ve just finished two weeks at one fill-in editing gig and I’m off to another one. …

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Cry to Heaven by Anne Rice

“Cry to Heaven” is the story of 17th century castrati, castrated males with unearthly, beautiful voices. These revered artists were courted by the Vatican and high society, but were also outcasts: eunuchs who existed in an excruciating gender …

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Reverend Shuttlesworth and Steve Jobs, Life Changers (2011)

(This post originally appeared on an earlier blog.) The Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth died earlier this week, but you probably missed the news. It was crowded out by the passing of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. The …

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Marilyn, a hero

(This post originally appeared on an earlier blog.) I met Marilyn the day she moved in across our narrow street in Portland, Oregon. She was calling me “Sweetie” before her moving van was unloaded. She’s …

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Watching the Taco Index

(This post originally appeared on an earlier blog.) We weren’t paying attention…and “taco” took over. In the past month I’ve had vegan Southwest tacos, fresh-ahi tacos, and Thai basil-quinoa tacos. Just for the hell of …

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Sad news: AP jargon gets the shove

(This appeared on an earlier blog.) As a former daily-newspaper journalist (and for a brief time many years ago, a proud writer for The Associated Press) I am heartsick to hear of the death of …

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Ted Kennedy (1932-2009)

We all called him by his first name, a nickname, really, and our parents never corrected us. In Massachusetts, we had the Kennedy Seat and we had an extra one for other people who wanted …

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Scottsboro: A Novel, by Ellen Feldman

The case of the “Scottsboro Boys” in 1931 proves that real-life stories, are in fact, stranger and more shocking than the made-up stuff can ever be. The Alabama case of nine African American teenagers falsely …

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